An Evio Exclusive written by Lori Harito
Emily Lyons is the President & Founder of Femme Fatale Media, the world’s largest staffing community. Emily’s journey is unconventional and interesting. Her first ever job was working on a garlic farm - for about a week - before she left (the smell lingered, though).
Emily dropped out of high school when she was 16 and launched her first company, Femme Fatale Media, at 23. Femme Fatale is a high-end event staffing agency in Toronto with 6,000 models in its roster. But that was just the start of her ambitious dive into entrepreneurship. Before she turned 30, she had already founded three companies. Impressive, right?
At 23, without a real direction or life plan, her late sister, Julia, (who she calls her “saving grace”) stepped in. Before passing away from cystic fibrosis, Julia gave Emily a book that changed everything - Career Renegade: How to Make a Great Living Doing What You Love. It lit a fire under her and sparked the determination that made Emily the success she is today.
Born in Stratford, Canada, Emily is now the owner of four companies: Lyons Elite, True Glue Beauty, JWLS and Femme Fatale. Interested in how she does it all? So were we.
Before you turned 30, you founded three amazing companies - do you think we're born with an entrepreneurial spirit? Is it something that can be taught?
I’m sure some people are born with an entrepreneurial spirit, but it’s absolutely something that can be learned. The entrepreneurial hunger – that burning drive – is largely shaped by one’s external circumstances and internal mental narrative. Turning that drive into a firestorm really involves knowing oneself very well.
What does the 'entrepreneurial spirit' look like to you?
The entrepreneurial spirit takes the form of someone who is willing to toss away – beyond the point of reason – anything that gets in the way of achieving the entrepreneurial vision. In this era of 24/7 news headlines, a constant bombardment of celebrity tweets, endless choices for what to watch on TV – you’ve got to be incredibly focused on what you, as an entrepreneur, want to accomplish. It’s easy to get sidetracked. It’s easy to put your time and energy into stuff that fundamentally does not matter. Someone who has that laser-like focus – that’s what the entrepreneurial spirit looks like to me.
What is your mission with Femme Fatale?
My mission with Femme Fatale Media is to completely change the marketing game for brands – giving organizations extremely effective promotional power that’s reflected in their bottom lines. We’re always getting better at this, too. Always improving.
What's the biggest misconception people have about you as a woman on top?
I’d say one of the biggest misconceptions people have about me as a businesswoman and CEO is that I’m always super serious and can’t crack a smile. In “real” life, I actually laugh and smile a lot, and enjoy cheesy quotes.
What are the top 3 skills that CEOs/Founders should have to thrive in their business?
All CEOs and founders should know how to prioritize ROI above pretty much anything else. They also need to be flexible – able to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. Because the world we live in is all about change – nothing static. CEOs and founders also need to have a pretty good grasp of the basics of marketing and branding. Otherwise, the company could go down a pretty bad marketing path and the CEO is oblivious to that.
You've said you're determined to shake things up. How?
I’m shaking things up by innovating in a variety of different industries – whether it’s in the cosmetics industry, event marketing, or matchmaking. I’m also very keen on shaking things up on the social front, which is what I’m doing with my company JWLS (JWLS sells a line of watches and donates a portion of the profits to efforts to combat cystic fibrosis).
Do you lead by following your gut? Is this something you've had to refine over the years?
My leadership style is kind of a hybrid of a lot of little things I’ve picked up over time. Certainly a big part is listening to my gut – to what my intuition is telling me. I’ve refined it over the years – it’s become a better approach to leadership – but I’m careful not to rely on just my gut. I like to look at the data, too – at facts and figures – before arriving at a decision.
What's coming up next for you?
I’m launching a whole new line of makeup through my cosmetics company, True Glue. These makeup products are designed to be completely safe and healthy on human skin – even beneficial for the skin. What’s really awesome about this makeup is that it has a long, strong hold – it doesn’t fall off throughout the day or smudge easily, and only comes off when you choose to remove it.